Al Gore did not claim he invented electricity last Thursday. But the words he uttered in his challenge on energy carried just as much fantasy.
According to Gore, the goal of producing every kilowatt of the nation’s electricity from carbon-free renewable sources like solar, wind, and geothermal within 10 years is not a far-fetched vision.
In his address at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall, Gore challenged America to abandon its fossil fuel usage altogether.
"This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative,” the former vice president said.
To achieve Gore’s lofty objective, the American way of life will indeed need to undergo major transformation. And such transformation will not be affordable by any technological means.
The Alliance for Climate Protection, a supposedly bipartisan group Gore leads, estimates the costs of transforming the U.S. to clean electricity sources at $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion over 30 years in public and private money. That’s an investment of about 30 percent of a year of America’s Gross Domestic Product.
“This is an investment that will pay itself back many times over. It’s an expensive investment but not compared to the rising cost of continuing to invest in fossil fuels,” Gore said.
But how easy will it be to change the psychology of our society and abandon oil? I wonder how many of the 3,700 enthusiastic people in attendance rode home on their bikes and called up a solar panel installer from their air-conditioned living rooms. Gore said in the speech that we must “move beyond empty rhetoric.” Yes, agreed. But why don’t Gore and his Democrat counterparts heed their own advice?
Adopting national security rhetoric, Gore moved from his assertion that America has a moral responsibility to mitigate global climate change. Diverting from previous calls for multilateral action like the Kyoto Protocol, Gore said “we must move first” in our own national interest to end our dependency on foreign oil. He cited military-intelligence studies warning of “dangerous national security implications” tied to climate change, including the possibility of “hundreds of millions of climate refugees” causing instability around the world.
Well, we could also stop shipping billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Russia for crude oil if Congress allowed American oil companies to drill domestically.
Thirteen years ago, President Bill Clinton had the opportunity to enact legislation to open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. If we want to reduce our dependency on foreign oil for national security purposes, why not take advantage and tap into our domestic sources?
The United States Geological Survey has estimated ANWR holds a mean estimate of 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Frank Murkowksi, former governor of Alaska, testified on behalf of the National Governors Association in February 2005 and told the House Energy and Commerce Committee:
"The Coastal Plain of ANWR has been determined to be the most promising unexplored petroleum province in North America…Oil from ANWR represents a secure domestic supply, which could help fulfill US oil demand for twenty-five years or more. Government studies suggest that the Coastal Plain could produce a ten year sustained rate of one million barrels per day."
So, ten years of pursuing an impractical goal versus ten years of increasing the steady flow of domestic oil—it seems like a common-sense partiality. Gore has challenged America to abandon fossil fuels within 10 years for national security purposes when we have the prospect right at our fingertips to drill domestically. The designated ANWR area is neither a refuge nor wilderness and definitely not pristine, despite constant claims to the contrary by environmentalists. Without a doubt, the development of alternative fuels is a must. But in the mean time, let’s open up drilling and focus our time, energy and money on realistic goals.
Not only did Gore challenge America to revamp its energy use. He also called for reduction in payroll taxes, which would be replaced by taxes on carbon dioxide production.
“We should tax what we burn, not what we earn,” he said. But Gore wants to burn money faster than fuel.
If the economic impracticality of Gore’s challenge is not enough to invalidate it, the hypocrisy surrounding his words and actions certainly authorize a call for questioning.
Before the speech, a group of FreedomWorks protestors gathered outside Constitution Hall to picket the event. Calling Gore out for his hypocrisy, the group drew a picture of Gore’s carbon footprint with chalk on the sidewalk. No dinosaur ever made such a large imprint.
“Hopefully we reached at least some of the attendees with our message, and made them think twice about listening to a man that asks Americans to change their ways while he still refuses to change his ways,” wrote Brendan Steinhauser on the FreedomWorks Web site.
In 2007, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research reported that the Gore family burned through 22,619 kilowatts per hour, more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. Gore contended that his 10,000-square-foot Nashville mansion is not an “average” home and that he and his wife Tipper work from home. He assured America he was using energy-saving technology to reduce the family footprint down to zero.
However, a TCPR report released last month shows that Gore actually increased his energy use by 10 percent, despite all of the supposed steps to make his home more energy-efficient.
Since last June, Gore burns an average of 17,768 kWh per month –1,638 kWh more energy per month than before the green renovations. By comparison, the average American household consumes 11,040 kWh in an entire year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Yet, Gore constantly scolds America to stop using so much energy. Maybe once Gore starts sacrificing his luxuries of private, fuel-inefficient jets and Lincoln Town Cars, Americans will attempt a change in their energy psychology.
It’s also hard to believe the words of a seasoned politician when so many experts denounce the theory he posits. The day before Gore’s challenge, the American Physical Society, an organization representing nearly 50,000 physicists, reversed its stance on climate change and now proclaims that many of its members doubt human-induced global warming.
And almost to the point of folly, Gore’s speech closely resembled John F. Kennedy’s challenge in May 1961 for America to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. Near the end of his speech, Gore even stated that his challenge is another opportunity for America to take a giant leap and change history. Apparently receiving the Nobel Peace Prize was not enough consolation for Gore to get over his failed presidential bid. First, he introduces himself in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” with “I used to be the next president of the United States.” Now he’s emulating a former president’s call to action.
But JFK’s goal was attained. Will America meet Gore’s sweeping challenge? As of now, it appears this man just has high, apple pie in the sky hopes.